by Swami Krishnananda
Having known so much about our own selves during our sessions of consideration of various aspects of life and creation, it becomes incumbent upon us to place ourselves in a position that is befitting the structure of this vast atmosphere. The word ‘yoga’, translated as union, is a simple act of being friendly with the atmosphere, the environment, the structure of creation. If we think of it deeply, we will find it is a simple matter to be just normal, friendly, harmonious, and be in a state of ‘at-one-ment’ with that to which we really belong, and from which we can never be separated.
What is the problem? It is so simple. We are not being asked to do something unnatural, something out of the way, some work, some duty, some obligation—something that has been foisted upon us as a work that does not belong to us. Meditation is not a work; it is a state of being. It is an affirmation of what we really are.
Now here immediately an answer will come from you: “I know very well what I am.” It is only to decondition your mind from the old idea about yourself that we have to take so much time going into several kinds of in-depth analysis. To be what you are would also mean being in harmony with everything inextricably related to you. Again, you have to remember the three aspects of the self which we considered deeply the other day. What you are is a blend of all the three aspects of the self, though these aspects will gradually melt down into a singularity of the concept of the self as you advance in your practice of yoga meditation.
It was also pointed out that, in the context of the consideration of asana, or posture, meditation requires a seatedness of your personality. The position, the posture of your body, should be seated—not walking, standing or lying down—for reasons you already know. Where will you be seated? In the railway station? In the hotel? Where are you going to sit? In your house? You have to find a place for sitting. Place, time and method may be regarded as three important factors in yoga practice—and all three should be proper. An improper place, improper time and improper method will yield no result.
Now, what are these proper methods, proper timings and proper places? You know very well what you are aiming at. You know what your goal is. What are its characteristics? Meditation is an endeavour on your part to behave in your own self in a manner which is harmonious with the characteristic and behaviour of that which you are aiming at. A friend is a person whose behaviour, conduct, outlook, requirement, is set in perfect tune with the person to whom he is a friend. People who think differently cannot be friends. Even the outlook of life should be similar; they have to aim at the same thing.
Meditation is a development of friendship with God; and you cannot be a friend of God unless you are able to think in the manner He thinks. You know very well that disparity of conduct cannot become a qualification for friendship. There is no secrecy between friends, so you should not keep something private which you will not reveal even before God Himself. Then you cannot be a friend of God.
After having heard so much, can you visualise what kind of thought could be God-thought? What would be the way in which God visualises this creation? What would be His attitude to this world? You may say, “I have never seen God. How can I know what He thinks and what He feels about things?” You need not see God to answer this question. The question can be answered by an effort on your part to place yourself in a position which can safely be regarded as something like the position God occupies in this universe. You have to transfer your consciousness to another location. Actually, meditation is nothing but this transference of consciousness from the location of the body to the location that is the object of meditation.
Inclusiveness, freedom from every kind of exclusiveness, universality, absence of any kind of want, presence everywhere—these may be said to be the characteristics of God. In a way, this is a characteristic of consciousness. That which is everywhere should also have an attitude towards things which cannot contradict its being present everywhere. If you are everywhere, in all things—if consciousness, which is your essential nature, is also the consciousness which is the Self of all beings—what would be your attitude towards things? So your own extended outlook developed in this manner may fairly be said to be the outlook of God Himself. All things are within, and there is nothing outside consciousness. This is the position which you may associate with God’s existence.
The place, the time and the method should not be in any way disharmonious with your expectation from the practice of meditation. The troubles of a spiritual seeker arise from a difficulty in freeing himself from the atmosphere of likes and dislikes, loves and hatreds, and the idea of possession of property, wealth, relationship with people, and the like. To avoid this difficulty, people generally leave an urban atmosphere, a large city of noise, and go to mountaintops, sequestered places where people around are not in any way disharmonious with their spiritual ambitions and aspirations. This is the first step that people generally take. They go to an ashram or a temple, or even a dharmashala, or any place other than that with which they are habituated—a place where circumstances prevailing outside do not excite their old desires or even bring the memory of old desires.
The timing of the practice is the second factor. Will you be sitting for meditation at any time? In advanced stages, any time is good. “Any time is teatime,” as people say. But in the earlier stages, you will find that the body will not easily cooperate. Even the mind will resent this practice. Hence, a gradual progress should be attempted. Never jump, and never expect a double promotion. Every step, every stage should be carefully passed through. People say many things about this time factor. Some people say early morning, before sunrise, is good; some people say it is good to meditate before going to bed, and so on. These are prescriptions of a traditional nature. Though these prescriptions have some meaning, they need not be taken too literally because whatever is feasible and comfortable, causing no pain either to the body or the mind, may be considered as suitable for your purpose.
Painlessness is also a very important factor; otherwise, it will become a kind of infliction, an imposition, a mechanical routine that that will bring nothing in the end. Anything that is done with resentment is not a fruitful activity. Neither should the body resent, nor should the mind resent. You should feel happy. How do you feel happy? The position of the body, the asana, should be so flexible that it should not cause agony either in the joints or in the back, etc. That is a minor point which is known to you; but the more important factor is the mind. Is it amenable to the ordinance that you have passed on it, that at this time of the day you will do this thing? Like an army commander, you are issuing instructions. Generally, nobody likes to receive instructions. They think, “This is a hopeless thing, as if I don’t understand. Why do you give me instructions? What this man is ordering?” The mind should not be given instructions. It should not be ordered. You do not like to be ordered by anybody; you know this very well. It is not very pleasant.
There are three ways of handling a thing. One is by saying, “I am saying that this should be done, and you have to do it.” The second way is, “It is very good to do this. If you do this, so much benefit will accrue. Look at this! The same thing was done by so many people in earlier days. They had blessings of various types. That person lived like this. That king, that emperor, that saint, that sage, that genius, that scientist, that litterateur—see how they lived! This is a very good thing. How glorious and great they were! You should also pursue this method. Don’t you think this is good?” This is a more pleasant way of handling a thing than saying it has to be done. The third way is, “It will be very beneficial. Do you know what will happen to you if you do this? Gradually, your efforts will fructify into a glorious achievement, and the achievement will be so blissful, so inclusive that you will find everything that you want! So why don’t you do it?” These are the three methods to be adopted, whichever is convenient at the appropriate time.
There is a basic fear in the heart of every person that the achievements in spiritual practice or meditation are, somehow or the other, irreconcilable with the values of life. Everyone has this little suspicion in their heart of hearts. Sometimes in religious circles the feeling goes so deep that the world is entirely condemned as anti-God. It is the number one evil. Even this body is an evil; it has to be disciplined, tortured, crushed, so that it may not raise its head. Extreme asceticism and renunciation of everything that is usually considered as pleasant and worthwhile in this world is dubbed as evil. The whole world is anti-spiritual. Therefore, the pursuit of spirituality is a movement in a direction opposite to what the world is taking. This is the attitude of a section of thinking which is partly philosophical, partly religious—a kind of fundamentalist attitude, as people generally say these days.
Well, you may have this attitude. But, will you tear yourself away from that to which you belong? Let this world be shunned as anti-God. Do you believe that you are an integral part of this world, and your vitality, your very breath is connected with the structure of the world itself? Do you realise that renunciation of the world includes renunciation of what you yourself are?
There is another mistake committed in the attempt at renunciation of things. “I have renounced the world. I have renounced family relations. I will renounce all connection with the world.” People sometimes make statements of this kind.
Now, where are you sitting at this moment if you have renounced the whole world? Can you find an inch of space to exist anywhere if the whole world has gone and has been abandoned? Do you realise that you also have gone with the world? A person who has renounced the world has automatically renounced his own existence together with the existence of the world. If this can be achieved, it is wonderful. You have gone with that which has been renounced. If something has gone, you have also gone with it.
But the ego principle will not permit this. “It is a renunciation of everything other than my own self.” Unfortunately, in this predicament, “my own self” is the ego principle. The renunciation of the world, vairagya, which is always considered as a prerequisite for spiritual practice, is a highly misconceived and abused concept. Many a time it becomes a formality of outward demeanour without any inner or internal transvaluation of values.
A little bit of philosophical insight, in the sense of a good knowledge of what it is that you are going to do and where exactly you are involved, is also necessary when you practice religion or yoga. Rushing headlong without thinking properly is not going to bring you anything. You should not rush into spiritual practice. Every step should be a firm step, carefully taken, well placed, so that you may not have to retrace it afterwards. Later on, you should not feel that some mistake has been committed. Take time; do not be in a hurry. God is not going to run away. He will be always there. Even if you take years, what does it matter? Go slowly, but do not slip down.
The time factor for meditation is that time when you are inwardly very happy in yourself, with no occupational thought in the mind. There should be no other occupation for at least three hours from the time you sit for meditation, because if there is something to be done immediately after, a part of the mind will go to that thing which is also equally important. Catching a train, going to an office or having a case in a court—these thoughts should not be there; they should be far, far away. Otherwise, there will be restlessness on the subconscious level. The timing should be such that at that hour or minute of your sitting, there is no mental occupation other than that for which you are sitting. It may be morning, or it may be any time. You select the time for yourself because you are the person who does the meditation, and not somebody else who is prescribing particular timings for you.